Algerian officials claim that “multiple” warning shots were fired before its military directly shot at a group of jet skiers who had crossed over from Morocco, killing two of them.
The deadly encounter occurred Tuesday after five jet skiers drifted into Algeria territory while exploring the waters around the Moroccan resort town of Saidia.
“Given that the maritime border area is witnessing intense activity by drug smuggling gangs and organized crime, Coast Guard members fired warning shots,” Algeria’s defense ministry said in a statement.
“After multiple attempts, shots were fired on a jet ski,” officials added.
One of the survivors, Mohamed Kissi, disputed that account of the shooting that killed his 29-year-old brother Bilal and their 40-year-old friend Abdelali Mechouar.
“I did not hear any warning shots. I only heard gunshots directly that killed my brother Bilal,” he said Sunday.
Another member of their group, Smail Snabi, was detained by the Algerian authorities, Kissi said — and Morocco’s National Human Rights Council claims he has already been sentenced to 18 months in jail.
The border between the African nations has been closed since 1994 and Algiers cut diplomatic ties with Rabat in 2021 after a history of tensions and mistrust in the volatile region.
Kissi said earlier that the group of friends had been approached by an Algerian government vessel after dark, and were fired upon even after seeing they were unarmed.
“We were low on fuel for the water scooters and were drifting. In the darkness, we found ourselves in Algerian waters,” Kissi told local news site le360, according to SkyNews.
“We knew we were in Algeria because a black Algerian dinghy came towards us [and] fired at us,” he recalled, the BBC reported.
“They arrested my other friend [Snabe]. Five bullets hit my brother and my friend. My other friend was hit by a bullet,” he alleged.
After the shooting, Kissi said he was forced to swim back toward Morocco before eventually being picked up by the navy.
The Kissi brothers and Snabi hold dual Moroccan and French citizenship, and Morocco’s National Human Rights Council had condemned the deadly shooting and ordered the release of Snabi.
Bilal’s bullet-ridden body was found by a fisherman and he was buried in Morocco on Wednesday.
Mechouar’s father said he is still waiting for his son’s body to be released by authorities so he can be properly buried.
“I appeal to Moroccan and Algerian authorities to reach an agreement to bring my son back to me to observe a proper funeral and burial for him,” Mustafa Mechouar said.
Prosecutors in Morocco said they were investigating the “violent incident” and France’s Foreign Ministry said it was in touch with authorities in its former colony.
With Post wires